Responding to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s accusation that she lied about the Rs 1 lakh crore order to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday claimed that the defence manufacturer was indeed given the contracts but added that most of them were in pipeline. The defence minister termed the Congress chief’s allegations as “incorrect and misleading”. "I would like to set all doubts to rest... the doubts raised in this regard are incorrect and misleading. I have received confirmation from HAL that contracts during 2014-18 worth Rs 26,570.80 crore have already been signed with HAL. Orders worth Rs 73,000 Cr approximately are in the pipeline," Sitharaman said in the Lok Sabha.
On Friday, responding to the Congress party’s allegations of corruption in the procurement deal of 36 Rafale fighter jets, Sitharaman had told Parliament that the Narendra Modi government had given contracts worth Rs 1 lakh crore to HAL. "The Congress is shedding crocodile tears for HAL. The Congress government gave 53 waivers to HAL... We have given contracts worth Rs. 1 lakh crore," the defence minister had said.
However, following her statement, media reports quoting HAL officials claimed that not a single rupee of the said Rs 1 lakh crore has gone to the defence manufacturers. “HAL is a listed company now. You are free to verify our order books, where you will find not a single rupee of the said Rs 1 lakh crore has come to HAL, since not a single order, as claimed, has been signed till now. We have a responsibility to shareholders who cannot be led to believe we have orders when we don’t,” The Times of India quoted a senior HAL officer as saying.
The report also added that as per the Lok Sabha records, Sitharaman did not claim that the orders were signed. Quoting the report, Rahul Gandhi on Sunday had dared the defence minister to place documents of government orders worth Rs 1 lakh crore to HAL before Parliament or submit her resignation. The Congress chief, quoting a media report, claimed that the HAL didn’t receive a single rupee or contract of the said amount and even took a loan to pay the salaries of their employees.
“When you tell one lie, you need to keep spinning out more lies, to cover up the first one. In her eagerness to defend the PM's Rafale lie, the RM lied to Parliament. Tomorrow, RM must place before Parliament documents showing 1 Lakh crore of Govt orders to HAL. Or resign,” he had said.